(SportsNetwork.com) - It's fair to call Mike McCarthy one of the best coaches in the NFL but it's also more than objective to point out that the veteran mentor bookended the Green Bay Packers' season with two, truly awful game plans in Seattle.
Back on Kickoff Weekend, McCarthy's stubborn insistence on staying away from Richard Sherman made his offense predictable by the second quarter after it became painfully obvious the coach had no interest in targeting the All-Pro and quarterback Aaron Rodgers was going to acquiesce.
The result was a 36-16 Seattle rout and, more importantly, the difference between the NFC Championship Game being held in CenturyLink Field instead of Lambeau.
Fast forward to Sunday where McCarthy's multitude of mistakes cost the Packers a trip to the Super Bowl despite the fact that his charges dominated a sloppy Seattle team for almost 58 minutes.
The Seahawks miraculously overcame five turnovers and a 12-point hole in the waning minutes of regulation to reach the big game for a second consecutive season by downing Green Bay 28-22.
"This is a hard one to swallow," McCarthy admitted. "We had opportunities, particularly at critical times to make plays. We had plays and Seattle made some of those big plays to keep the game alive so you have to give them credit."
The Packers' coach can drop the self-deprecating act, though, because he deserved plenty of credit for the outcome also.
Apologists for McCarthy are trying to peddle the narrative that if reserve tight end Brandon Bostick, who was supposed to be a blocker, just snared a rather easy onside kick attempt, the Packers would be during up the itinerary for Glendale.
And while that's true, it doesn't address McCarthy's poor decision-making throughout the game which put Bostick in the position to fail.
"Brandon, just like anything, you get in to one of those critical spots," McCarthy said. "It is important for everybody to do their job. Unfortunately that wasn't the case on that play. And that's the result of it."
The coach's ultra-conservative mindset in the first quarter -- most notably, kicking two Mason Crosby field goals from 18 and 19 yards out -- received most of the attention but his incompetence in the final frame was even more egregious, as he ran five out of six plays on consecutive three-and-outs despite possessing the presumptive MVP in Rodgers.
And, on one of the three-and-outs, it was the pedestrian James Starks carrying the football not the hard-nosed Eddie Lacy.
"We had some chances early, had some chances late to do some things and didn't do it," Rodgers said. "When you go back and think about it, at times we weren't playing as aggressive as we usually are."
"Field goals early in the game, we knew that points were at a premium," McCarthy added. "Frankly, I would have liked to have gone for it there on fourth down, but based on what we saw, on second and third down, I just felt that you had to take points."
To be fair some of McCarthy's shaky choices had to do with Rodgers' health as the All-Pro was hardly himself because of a left calf injury but neither were Seahawks star safety Earl Thomas or Sherman, who was playing with one arm late in the game.
Meanwhile, A-Rod sure seemed capable of doing some things when leading the Packers down the field to force overtime in the final seconds.
"We've finished off games before in four-minute (offense)," Rodgers said while treading lightly, no bout aware of McCarthy's ample ego. "We had a chance to do some things; didn't do it."
To many, any criticism of McCarthy's strategy is off base because of Bostick's miscue but that ignores nuance, and while plenty contributed to this collapse, none were more culpable than McCarthy.
"You can't let (the Seahawks) complete a pass for a touchdown on a fake field goal, you can't give up an onside kick and you can't not get any first downs in the fourth quarter and expect to win," Rodgers said. "And that's on top of being really poor in the red zone in the first half. Put all of that together, that's how you lose games. This was a great opportunity. We were right on the cusp."
Until McCarthy directed them off of it.
If anything, it was the Packers' coach who failed Bostick and Rodgers and Lacy and every other player you can name that was wearing the Green and Gold on Sunday, not the other way around.
McCarthy is a micromanaging, "joystick" coach, albeit a very good one. Instead of adjusting in-game or coaching with any kind of feel, however, he walks into a contest with a plan and loathes to deviate.
"If you want to question my playcalling ... I'm not questioning it," McCarthy boasted. "I didn't think it would take a lot of points to win this game. I came in here to run the ball. The one statistic I had has as far as a target to hit was 20 rushing attempts in the second half, I thought that would be a very important target to hit for our offense."
Unfortunately for Green Bay fans, the target can change and sometimes you need a coach to realize it.